Health and wellbeing at work: we all share responsibility

Productivity, work attendance, engagement and creativity. In a context where the health crisis and remote working have profoundly changed the organisation of work, the question of health and well-being at work is more present than ever in discussions. According to a study by CIPD, 77% of respondents believe their organisation actively promotes good mental wellbeing; however, just half believe it's effective in addressing workplace stress or in identifying and managing the mental health risks that have been caused by the pandemic. However, is the employer the only one who can contribute to it?

Company, managers and employees: it's up to you!

Stress, anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress symptoms and burnout are suggested to be some of the mental health issues that have been caused by the COVID-19 pandemic according to the survey report by CIPD. Unhappiness at work deprives the company - and its employees - of the many benefits of well-being at work. Companies in the UK could save up to £8 billion a year if mental health was managed properly as per Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health. But how can an employee manage these stresses or anxieties? Who is responsible to handle and care for this? Can we blame it on the company or is there a responsibility shared with the employee?

Well-being at work: a state of mind above all

Health and well-being at work are at the heart of concerns. Relaxation areas, team building activities, yoga sessions, or even Chief Happiness Officer: initiatives to promote them are constantly flourishing. However, happiness at work is a complex concept and it would be simplistic to limit it to the actions taken by the company.

What is well-being at work? Well-being at work is first and foremost a state of mind, which is characterised by "a satisfactory harmony between the abilities, needs and aspirations of the worker on the one hand and the constraints and possibilities of the work environment on the other". It therefore includes both physical factors (such as the ergonomics of the workspace) and emotional factors (such as a sense of satisfaction, confidence or enjoyment).

This WHO definition highlights the subjectivity underlying the concept of 'happiness at work', which is a very personal notion. Everyone has their own idea of happiness, just as everyone has their own needs and aspirations. Does this mean that happiness has no place at work? Not at all. However, although the employer has a role to play - especially from a legal point of view - so does the employee and the manager.

A shared responsibility

Company, employees, managers: everyone has a part to play! Health and well-being at work is both an organisational initiative taken by the employer and the HR department and, at team level, by managers; as well as a personal and individual initiative taken by employees themselves. What is everyone's role?

The company’s responsibility

There are many ways in which a company, and in particular the human resources department, can promote happiness at work. And this starts with the recruitment interview, during which it is essential to ensure that the candidate has both the necessary skills and the values and mindset that match the company's culture.

Next to that, various initiatives can be put in place to create a healthy and pleasant working environment. Lifelong learning, physical and mental health programmes, internal communication... To find out more, discover our 7 HR trends for 2021

Moreover, in the current context, between social distancing and technological progress - which sometimes distances us more than it brings us closer - the feeling of isolation is growing among employees and has a major impact on their health and well-being. In its report on how companies can prepare the workforce of tomorrow, PWC highlights the important role of the employer in creating and maintaining social ties to strengthen the resilience of its employees.

The same applies to the autonomy you give to your employees. Did you know that a feeling of powerlessness at work can lead to ill-being, and be detrimental to motivation and creativity? PWC emphasises the importance of moving towards a more empowering corporate culture to enhance employee well-being, productivity, job satisfaction and engagement.

The employee’s responsibility

However, the company is not the only one responsible for happiness at work! The employee has a role to play in the quest for happiness. As we saw earlier, happiness is a personal attitude. In order to be happy at work, the employee must first of all get to know himself better and ask himself: Are my tasks stimulating enough? Or are they a source of anxiety? Do I enjoy my work? Is my relationship with my work healthy? What skills do I need to develop? Without this introspective work, the employee cannot know what makes him or her happy. This applies to both personal and professional life.

Once the employee is clear about his or her aspirations and needs (the GoodScan is very useful for this), it is up to the employee to invest in his or her own personal development. Indeed, even if the employer plays a key role in providing training, only a voluntary and spontaneous initiative by the employee will bear fruit.

As for the passion for work, even if the company fuels it, it comes largely from the employees themselves. Only the employee can decide to take advantage of the autonomy offered by the company, to assiduously follow a training course, to go to work smiling in the morning, to be more optimistic or to take care of his or her health by taking regular breaks, eating healthily and practising regular physical activity. The employee must be the actor of his own happiness at work.

The responsibility of the manager

What about the manager? From detecting signs of weakness to showing recognition, listening and helping others, the manager is an essential link for well-being at work. In addition to the efforts made by the company and the employee, the manager must ensure a sense of affiliation and team spirit, invest in the personal development of his or her employees and adopt transformational leadership to create engagement, team spirit and well-being at work. Download our “Remote Leadership: Future-proof management” checklist to help your managers develop the skills they need to be the leaders of tomorrow and encourage them to be a driver of both personal and professional development for their teammates.

In terms of health and well-being at work, the key word here is co-responsibility. Everyone, at his or her own level, contributes to it. And everyone has something to gain from it: a healthy working environment, personal development, a stronger employer branding, productivity, creativity and fun at work. Together, companies, teams and employees can live happily ever after.

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